FCC Net Neutrality and more hearings

Ars Technica has a good recap on last week’s FCC Neutrality/Title II hearing. Here are some of their highlights

Broadband – telecommunication or info service?

In order to deregulate broadband, the FCC argued that broadband itself isn’t a telecommunications service and is instead an information service. Under US law, telecommunications is defined as “the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.”

By contrast, US law says an information service is “the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunications.” It’s up to the FCC to determine whether something is a telecommunications or information service, but FCC decisions can be overruled by a court if they aren’t justified properly.

Throttling unlimited data plans?

Blocking, throttling, or any sort of paid prioritization that causes other traffic to be delivered slower than prioritized traffic could affect both public safety agencies and consumers who rely on broadband to get emergency messages, she noted. As an example, she said her county’s public health website provides information about vaccine stock in case of influenza outbreaks.

US law requires the FCC to consider public safety impacts, Goldstein said. “The FCC can’t fail to address public safety, especially in an order that purports to preempt state and local government’s ability to fill that regulatory gap,” she said, noting that the FCC is attempting to preempt state and local net neutrality laws.

After-the-fact remedies aren’t sufficient for public safety, because such remedies would come after emergencies causing death, she said.

Millett grilled Johnson on the public safety topic. “Post-hoc remedies don’t work in the public safety context, and unless I missed it, that was not addressed anywhere in the [repeal] order,” Millett said.

Johnson responded that “the burden ought to be on them [the public safety agencies] to show concrete evidence of harm.”

Does Net Neutrality harm investment?

Johnson also had trouble explaining why the FCC claimed that net neutrality rules were harming broadband investment, given that broadband providers themselves told investors that the rules did no such thing.

Johnson called those statements to investors “ambiguous.” Millett was not convinced.

“What is ambiguous about, ‘it’s not going to affect us, we’re going to keep going ahead [with investment],'” Millett asked. Statements to investors “have to be true,” she continued. “It’s almost like someone doing something under oath. That’s pretty good evidence, if there’s a penalty if they’re lying or even engaging in misleading puffery.”

As Millett pointed out, publicly traded companies are required to give investors accurate financial information, including a description of risk factors involved in investing in the company.

This entry was posted in Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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